Mount Alvernia High School, Newton, Massachusetts

Milan Kundera

Cortney Chan 

The Life of Oskar Schindler

Fulfillment in the Novels of Milan Kundera

Milan Kundera is a French author known for his writings on transcendental philosophy whose novels cannot be defined by a single category. Kundera’s novels are filled with theories that explore life beyond human knowledge, allowing his readers to view their own lives in a different light. In his novels, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Immortality, many of his characters explore these concepts and strive to lead a fulfilling life. Kundera connects their lives with themes of existence, such as love, the body and soul, fate, death, immortality, memories, and laughter. Through these themes, Kundera aims to convey his belief that the struggle of mankind’s fulfillment is having either a life of weight, of emotions and responsibilities, or a life of lightness, of freedom and meaningless connections. Throughout his novels, whether these characters have lightness or weight, they desire the opposite and do everything in their power to achieve their ideal existence.

Just as Kundera’s characters endeavor to lead fulfilling lives, Oskar Schindler devoted his life to saving hundreds of Jews during the Holocaust of World War II. He was a German businessman and Nazi Party member who made many enemies and risked his life to save Jews. Schindler saw the unjust treatment and cruel punishments of those in the camps under the leadership of Adolf Hitler and immediately took action. Schindler owned his own factory and subcamp in Krakow, and later in Brunnlitz, employing around 1,100 Jews. In an effort to save as many Jews as possible, Schindler created a list of men, women, and children from the camps that were considered vital workers. Marked a traitor by many former Nazis, Schindler struggled to find success in post-WWII Germany. Despite this, generations of Jews he saved assisted him out of gratitude and respect. His life’s work and legacy is known worldwide through novels, documentaries, films, and honors, including the prestigious title “Righteous among the Nations,” an honor awarded by Israel for endangering his life to save others.

Major Works Consulted:

Byres, Anne. Oskar Schindler: Saving Jews From the Holocaust. Berkeley Heights, NJ: Enslow Publishers, 2005.
Kundera, Milan. Immortality. London: Faber and Faber, 1992.
---. The Unbearable Lightness of Being. New York: Perennial Classics, 1999.
Pemper, Mietek. The Road to Rescue: The Untold Story of Schindler's List. New York: Other Press, 2005.
Photo Credit: "Review." Encounter by Milan Kundera. The Sunday Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.